Monday, February 08, 2010

Why I may not be the right agent for you

As usual, Ed Anon says exactly what I think, only better.

Here she talks about what can be fixed easily, what can't, and why some authors who "fix" things drive us to drink.

I should add to this by saying I am not an editor, nor an "editorial minded agent." I've never been an editor, and after seeing the work of some truly talented editors, I DO think they are superheroes.

Which means if something needs to be fixed, even if I know what it is, which I often don't, I'm more likely to say "not for me" than "here, let me give some suggestions." Not all agents are like that of course.

That is one of the top five reasons you should query widely, not offer exclusives, and not obsess about rejections. Agents bring different skills to the game. Not all agents, even spiffy sharky ones, are the best agent for you.


Christi Goddard said...

Freakish. I just read that post about an hour ago after playing blog hopscotch from one writer's link to another. Very helpful information in that post, and of course in yours. Thanks, Janet.

Maureen said...

I agree with you about querying widely, but the problem I have run into is so many agents won't even look at a partial without exclusivity. I dislike doing that because it slows down the process of finding the right agent. How would you suggest handling that situation since you don't support allowing exclusives?

Marsha Sigman said...

Love the honesty! Although I wonder how many writers out there can be honest enough with themselves to realize the kind of agent they need.

Josin L. McQuein said...

Not the agent for me? Wait... no... does not compute... sorry, I must have misunderstood something.

(Maureen, who are you querying? I've never had an agent ask for an exclusive on a partial or a full - even the biggest agencies. I think you need to look at a few more places.)

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

Yet the spiffy sharky ones are helping *all* the queriers with her toothsome advice.

Glen said...

Thanks for this, Janet. Your advice helps writers get a feel for the publishing world. And not just the authors you represent.

Unknown said...

I love reading your posts, they give me insight to the world of agents and publishing... Always great advice & tips!!

The Daring Novelist said...

This is also why it is important to write a query that actually represents the book. So often writers get advice on a query that makes it more appealing, but the changes take it further from the book.

Now, it's true, sometimes the writer should fix the book to match the better query, but it doesn't help to make a great pitch for a book you don't have.

Kyler said...

I feel so lucky that you did give me some suggestions, and the ms is better because of them. Thanks again, Janet. (And yes, I applied what you said and made the changes in my own way.)

jmartinlibrary said...

Dunno why, but this post made me think of the phrase, "but what I really want to do is direct..."

I think that's why so many of us keep coming back to your read blog.

We know that you know that your clients know how to write. And you know how to agent.


shtrum said...

Interesting timing. Got a request for a full ms a week ago. Went over it one last time to check everything, then sent it out yesterday. Got a terse reply today about wasting people's time, was called a liar, and told to forget it.

Today's lesson: edit at your peril.

DeadlyAccurate said...

@Maureen: "I'm unable to offer an exclusive, but I'll keep you informed should I receive an offer in the meantime." Then you include the requested partial/full anyway. And if you do receive an offer, you give the other agents time to also offer before you make a decision.

As tempting as it may be, the words, "I'm sorry you don't feel able to compete against other agents, and I wish you luck in your future endeavors" should not be a part of the response. ;-)

Anonymous said...

"Why some authors who "fix" things drive us to drink". . .

Ha. I was digging around in the Shark archives last night and reading some of the supposedly revised queries was about to drive me to drink, even though I'm Mormon and have never touched a drop in my life. It's amazing to watch you give very specific advice and have people ignore it twice and three times. (Admittedly, it's also entertaining to watch, in a train wreck sort of a way. Also, this was way back in the archives, so no recent queriers need think I'm talking about them.)

Moll said...

Thanks for the reminder. Why is perspective so damn elusive?

LR said...

@The Daring Novelist

So true, so very true.

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

oh thupp! and we though you could fix anything ...

Writing and publishing are the great mysteries of life. There are contrary rules, differing approaches, fights over words ... You'd think it was a religion!

A pixie's observations on the Writer's Life:

1. I like my editor. She's really good.

2. My i'm-in-crisis-mode beta reader is better. You need someone like her.

3. It's hard to learn that your words aren't your children. When you edit you do not murder your children.

4. My most brutal crtics are my own students. I'm rewriting the first paragraphs of story two in an anthology because they uniformly said, in their very blunt high-school way, "I don't like it. It's too slow."

5. Good writers never write alone. Bouncing ideas off others works. Find someone you trust.

6. All middle-schoolers are a bit insane. If you write for them, you must be nuts too.

7. Never trust a goat.

KM Smith said...

Thanks for this post and the link to Ed Anon's post. The beginning writer would be better off working on the craft of writing than looking for that "one big idea" and expecting an editor to "fix" his or her mangled mess of a manuscript.

Matthew Delman said...

Sha'el --

Words to live by. Especially number 7.

Debbie Barr said...

Janet, have you seen Nathan Hale's illustrated version of Publishing? Think: Dante's Inferno.

Apparently you and your comrades enjoy watching zombie-writers duke it out Gladiator style.

Author, Script Writer, Film said...

My analysis, after reading many of your blogs, is that you are way too truthful to be popular in this industry. But here you are, and apparently doing well. I am impressed. I just wanted to state that. I shall put your blog up on my links and come back.
Most Sincerely,
I remain,
Jim Strauss

fOIS In The City said...

Your blatant honesty is refreshing and needed by most of us who get vague responses or God-forbid ... that was nice comments.

To this end, I must thank you for the "write a query of 250 words" I viewed posted on Guide to Literary Agents." I read this on the wake of reading a posting from Knight agency Love Fest... describe your book in ONE paragraph, describe yourself in ONE paragraph.

Trained in "another" life to do in depth research, I was taught to say it in ONE sentence and then whined in my "new" life when asked to be sucinct.

Your agency is not interested in the types of books I write but I read you because people like yourself and Chuck Sambuchino provide realistic information all writers need to know.

Snarky or not, you do a great job.

Angie Ledbetter said...

Great and honest. Love your merit badge!